SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 28 March 2021
Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 15:35-49
Click to Watch Sermon Video: https://youtu.be/3G_IP1ynKLg
I. Continuity vs. discontinuity
II. The substance of the resurrection body
III. Our hope through death
Today’s passage answers to specific questions asked by an anonymous member of the Corinthian church in the times of the apostles. But the same questions are still asked by numerous Christians today. The questions are, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”
Last Lord’s Day, we dealt with the first question, “How are the dead raised?” A short answer is that, when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven with the voice of an archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God, the dead in Christ will rise and, having their bodies and their souls reunited, meet the Lord in glory. The unbelievers’ bodies will also be raised on that day and, hearing the Judge’s final verdict for their rebellion against God and disbelief in the Son, will be thrown into hell, whereas the believers will enter the new heavens and the new earth to dwell there eternally. In this way, the dead will surely be raised because Jesus was raised as the firstfruits of resurrection. Rom. 8:11 explains what will happen in these words: “If the Spirit of [God] who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
So, how are the dead raised? Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God will bring us up from the dead like the way He raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and it’ll be done when the Son returns to us.
Now, we turn our attention to the second question, “With what kind of body do they come?” In other words, when we’re raised from the dead, what kind of body will we receive? How will we look like? Let us ponder over this important matter of our resurrection body and of its substance.
I. CONTINUITY VS. DISCONTINUITY
In addition to the questions I’ve just mentioned, people ask some extra questions like, whether we’d look the same as we are now and be able to recognise each other. Would our loving ones be able to identify us? Would we look in 20s, 40s or 80s when God raises us on the day of Jesus’ glorious return?
Questions like these are on the matter of continuity vs. discontinuity between our present body and future resurrection body. Our text passage tells us that our present body is ‘perishable’ whereas our future body will be ‘imperishable.’ Our present weak and natural body will be transformed into a spiritual body. Then, which parts or substance of the present body would remain the same or be ceased to exist in our future resurrection body?
The answer is, we’ll be raised with the same body we have. The features that make us who we are will be preserved and continuing through resurrection. So, we’ll be able to identify others and others will recognise us because we’ll receive the same body we have now. Like the way Mary Magdalene noticed the risen Lord Jesus and called Him, “Rabboni!” – that is, ‘Teacher!’ – and all Jesus’ disciples were glad seeing Him after His resurrection, we’ll know each other in our resurrection bodies.
But that’s about it in terms of continuity. All other matters are under the category of discontinuity. We’ll be totally changed when we’re raised at Jesus’ second coming. This also includes our outward appearance. I’m not contradicting myself by saying this now, having said the opposite a minute ago. In a mysterious way, we’ll become different from our present body in shape and form.
Let me explain this with a couple of biblical examples. Firstly, in the morning of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene was in front of the empty tomb, crying. And to her, Jesus appeared. But, even though she heard Jesus speaking to her as in Jn. 20:15: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”, she could not recognise Him straight away. Instead, she thought He was a gardener. Also, in Lk. 24, two disciples were on their way to a village named Emmaus. And the risen Lord appeared to them and walked together with them and, while they were travelling side by side, He explained to them what the Scriptures meant in terms of the Saviour’s suffering and death and resurrection. As they reached their destination, they urged Jesus to stay with them, not knowing who He truly was. Then, they sat around dinner table and Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it and gave it to them. And that was the moment they were able to recognise the risen Saviour Jesus! The risen Lord looked the same but, strangely, people could not immediately recognise Him.
This means, our resurrection body will be the same as our present body. More specifically, we’ll keep the characteristics and features that make each of us unique. But something completely new and fresh will be added to us that would make us dramatically different from our present body.
Although it wouldn’t be a perfect example, what I experienced some years ago might help you understand this ‘same but different’ change. I had an opportunity to visit a church I had worshipped and served for many years ago. I was excited to meet my dear friends again on that Lord’s Day. As I walked closer to the main entrance, a tall guy greeted me with an excitement, saying, “Oh, Mr Song! How are you?” I looked at him, tall, handsome guy with a big friendly smile, but could not recognise who he was. Slightly puzzled, I greeted him, “Good morning.” Before I tried to ask who he was, he introduced himself and said, “I’m such and such who used to sit in your Sunday School classes.” Then, I jumped – literally – in surprise, and with a great joy, gave him a big handshake. I could see the boy on his face, but – praise God! – that boy had become a mature man of faith in a far better stature in every way.
In a similar way, people could not recognise the risen Lord Jesus until He patiently introduced Himself to them. Likewise, our future resurrection body will have a significant discontinuity between our present body. Our future resurrection body will be the same as the present body but in a far better and glorious stature in every way in the Lord!
II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE RESURRECTION BODY
This is the core of discontinuity we’ll experience with our future body. The substance or physical properties of our present body will be transformed into a glorious way. Our text passage gives us a full-scale explanation of it.
Whereas our present body is earthly (v. 40) and in dishonour (v. 43) as it is perishable (v. 42) and weak (v. 43) and of dust (v. 47), the body into which we’ll be raised is heavenly (v. 40) as it is imperishable (v. 42), being raised in glory and power (v. 43). V. 49 puts it all in a simple way, that is, the present body bears the ‘image of the man of dust,’ Adam, but our future resurrection body will bear the ‘image of the man of heaven,’ that is, Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:21 defines it and says that Christ Jesus will transform our ‘lowly body’ to be like His ‘glorious body.’ A perishable will turn to be imperishable and glorious.
The ultimate cause of this difference is the presence of sin. The perishable body is under the curse of sin whereas the imperishable is without sin but under the eternal blessing of the Lord. Sin-spoiled body decays as it is dead. But the body from which sin and its curse are removed will inherit God’s eternal kingdom as it is made to be and live in the glory and power of the Lord.
To help you understand this further, let me bring to your attention the example of Jesus who is the firstfruits of resurrection. Because we’ll be raised in the same kind of body as His, His example tells us a lot about the substance of our future resurrection body.
Before His resurrection, although He was sinless, His body was under the influence of sin and its curse. He was hungry; He was thirsty; and He was tired. He cried because of the sinners and died on the cross to deliver them from sin. All physical needs and discomfort Jesus experienced were real and not imaginary, and they prove that Jesus’ body before His resurrection was put under the sinful earthly realm.
But after resurrection, we read no record of Jesus being hungry or tired. Instead, He was not limited by anything of the world – not even a closed door and walls could keep Him out. He travelled freely; He was able to appear and disappear as He pleased. He ate as He pleased. The earth’s gravity could not hold Him down and He ascended into heaven.
We’ll be raised and our new body will be exactly like that of Jesus, except all attributes that belong to His divinity. We’ll be free from sin as Jesus is righteous. Nothing of this sin-saturated world will be able to hold us up. What we desire with our new body will be perfectly righteous in the eyes of God, perfectly glorifying both the Father and the Son, perfectly embracing in love one another, our fellow members of God’s eternal kingdom!
Putting it into a language you and I could understand might be like this. When we receive a new and spiritual body that is sinless, we’ll be fear-less. Fear of death will be completely removed from us and so is fear of any harm, shame, sickness, insecurity, unknown future or being alone. Imagine that. Nothing and no one of the world you’re entering into will do any harm to you. There’s zero possibility of being even scratched on your body or emotion. Everything and everyone of God’s kingdom are on your side as the Lord Himself welcomes you and loves you alongside every citizen of His kingdom. There’s zero possibility of having any sinful notion in anyone’s mind anymore because sin has been completely and permanently removed.
Then, our whole being will be filled with joy in its fullest sense. That’s because we’ll dwell in a world that’ll fully satisfy us, lacking nothing, both spiritually and bodily. Sin which has separated us from our Creator God will no longer be there; so, our complete union with our Father will grant us all things of His kingdom. After all, we’ll no longer address God as our ‘Heavenly’ Father because He will dwell in our midst and we in Him! Let me add one more to it; in our post-resurrection life in the new heavens and the new earth, there’ll be no such thing as ‘hope’ because what we’ve hoped for on this side will be fully accomplished and realised!
This is, as I see it, a glimpse of the substance of our future resurrection body – that is, spiritual and imperishable rather than earthly and perishable.
III. OUR HOPE THROUGH DEATH
Then, we have one last point to consider, that is, how we ought to desire our future resurrection body and wait for it from now.
To say the conclusion first, you and I and all true believers ought to desire it and wait eagerly for it now and always until we all hear the trumpet sound of God and see the Lord Jesus coming in glory. Our daily walk must be toward that direction; our spiritual eyesight must be fixed on that day. That day of our bodily resurrection ought to be our ultimate hope in Jesus Christ.
In the meantime, we should know that this hope will be available through our bodily death. Death is the passageway to that glorious day. Without death, seeing the glorious day of the Lord and being clothed with a new and fresh and imperishable body is impossible. Of course, some believers will meet Jesus without tasting physical death simply because of the timing of Jesus’ return, but that’s just a small portion of the total number of God’s elect.
This is what the Apostle Paul explains in our text passage with the analogy of seeds sown and plants that grow out of them. In v. 35, it is said that what is sown “does not come to life unless it dies.” And the thing that dies is ‘perishable’ and what comes out of this perishable is ‘imperishable.’ We’ll be sown in our physical death and our perishable body will be raised in glory and in power. Our resurrection body will fully bear the ‘image of Jesus Christ.’
Having said, let me ask you this question – ‘Do you dread death? Or do you consider it a blessing from God?’ Your answer to this question is a barometer of how thoroughly you’ve understood and appreciate the truth of Jesus’ second coming and the resurrection of your body.
Let me conclude with a story of a brother in the Lord Jesus and his understanding of death and Jesus’ return and his bodily resurrection. Martin Lloyd-Jones was a famous 20th century Welsh preacher, and when he became very ill, he asked his family not to pray for healing, thus, to delay his entering into glory.
He was waiting eagerly for the day of his glorious rising from the tomb, seeking to meet his Lord Jesus Christ coming in glory. All else had no meaning to his eyes and mind. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul means when he says in v. 49, “we shall … bear [from even now] the image of the man of heaven [that is, Jesus Christ]”!
Let us ask God to be gracious to us and lift up our spiritual eyes and, then, fix them to the day of the Lord’s glorious return and our rising in glory! ***